For over 20 years, Sonja Blades has worked in various departments on campus. She left such an impact in each area that 12 individuals nominated her for the Robert E. Turner Award, which she earned this year.

“I was in awe of all the nominations. I was overwhelmed by what they said about me. It’s truly a blessing. To receive such a prestigious award is an honor,” Blades said. “This is my job; this is what I do. I’m just dedicated, and I love it.”

Blades started as a student worker in computer technology in 1999. She later was hired as a departmental assistant and then program assistant for what is now Student Success, where she helped coordinate College 101 classes and worked with student orientation. For the last five years, Blades has worked as secretary II in Liberal Arts. She’s the first face people see when they enter that office in Building B, and she’s ready to help all students, faculty and staff in need.

“Walking into a dean’s office can be intimidating for students. Sonja has a way of making them feel welcome, that they are important and respected,” said two of her nominators. “She recently helped a student whose class (needed for a transfer to a school where only three people were accepted into this program) had been canceled at the last minute. Sonja went above and beyond to help this student, contacting an instructor and department head to allow him to enroll in a class after the semester had started. She is a very determined problem solver!”

Several nominators also noted her willingness to help get critical work done, even working late to complete tasks.

“Sonja spends many hours contacting students who are losing classes due to low enrollment, then offers and ultimately moves them into alternative sections and assists the chair and modifies faculty loads. She ensures all of this happens as efficiently as possible and with full and transparent communication among all parties.

Everything gets done and gets done well,” another nominator mentioned.

“Sonja sticks with the student and keeps them on target until they get exactly what is needed. There is never a pass off to someone else. She will call and ask questions of others, but she never hands a student off and then forgets their name. That doesn’t happen,” a nominator noted. “Sonja wants to see everyone succeed, and she keeps her hands in the mix until they are through the process.”

Blades answers phones, hangs signs for canceled classes, prepares load sheets for faculty and helps secure American Sign Language interpreters, among her many duties. Not only did her nominators note her hard-work ethic and willingness to learn but also how personable she is.

“Sonja is always pleasant and cheerful and greets anyone who enters the Liberal Arts subdivision with a smile and welcoming attitude. She is one of the nicest people I know, and I consider myself tremendously fortunate to work with her on a daily basis,” one nominator said.

“You will not find a more kind-hearted soul on campus. Sonja is such a gracious person and wonderful ambassador to the Liberal Arts Office and Moraine Valley. Her smile can light up a room,” said another nominator.

During her time at the college, Blades earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Governors State University, the latter of which inspired her to work in Academic Affairs with an opportunity to work with faculty after 17 years in Student Development. And she’s loved her time at the college.

“I am thankful that I have worked at Moraine Valley for the past 20-plus years. I have enjoyed coming to work daily as an integral member of Liberal Arts,” Blades said. “This college is a wonderful pathway for all our students. I am thankful and blessed to be part of this community of educators.”